August 18, 2015 – Sand City hosts the 14th annual West End Celebration this weekend, showcasing the visual, performing and culinary arts taking place on a daily basis in renovated buildings along the west end of the city.
In addition to two days of song and dance—with a dynamic line-up of bands, ensembles, duos and soloists, as well as more than a dozen open studio tours—there will be plenty of food and beverage to sip, sample and savor. Here are a few of the foodie stops worth making:
Sweet Elena’s: Since 1992, celebrated pastry chef Elena Salsedo-Steele has been serving up sweets in her artisan bakery, Sweet Elena’s, where everything is made from scratch and enjoyed fresh. She opened the bakery café following a 14-year tenure as pastry chef for the renowned Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur, yet her culinary appreciation dates back to her growing-up years in North Africa and in France, where homemade food was an important part of her culture.
“My mother was a gourmand, who bought our food daily at the farmer’s market,” says Steele.
“Here, the farmers’ markets, with their variety of seasonal products, continue to be a source of inspiration for my cooking.”
Imagine succulent fruit pies and tarts made with local Meyer lemons, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Savor vegetable or chicken and chard galettes, or spinach and mushroom quiche. Taste fresh granola made with Amen bee honey, crisp biscotti with anise, and star cookies filled with raspberry jam.
During the West End event, the bakery café will offer a pie tasting. For $5.50, people can try five different summer—peach, apricot, plum, strawberry and even some apple, as they are starting to come out now. Most of the fruit is organic, and all of the pies are naturally sweet.
“I did not grow up with pies,” says Elena, “but I fell in love with them. I like the idea of an abundance of fruit, lightly sweetened and enclosed in a buttery pie crust that has sugar only sprinkled on top.”
The pie tasting will be held at the bakery, while a booth on the street will serve Elena’s pies, pizza and sandwiches, as well as rosemary-ginger lemonade.
Also, during the West End Celebration, Sweet Elena’s will host “Mud, Cows and Dragons,” an art opening for Chappellet sisters Lygia and Carissa of Chappellet Winery in St. Helena. The mixed-media paintings, including a little mud, will be accompanied by house or Chappellet wine for purchase.
Hale Kai Lana: Meanwhile, Kelly Edwards, founder of Hale Kai Lana, which sells pure Kona coffee, will be serving up samples of Ka’u coffee, an up-and-comer, she says, as smooth as Kona coffee.
“Premium Kona coffee beans grow only in a small district on the Big Island of Hawaii, not unlike champagne from the champagne region of France,” says Edwards. “My business partner, Gordon Leslie, is in Hawaii. He sends the beans, and Acme Coffee, just around the corner from us in Sand City, roasts them, so our coffee’s always fresh.”
During the West End Celebration, Hale Kai Lana, which also sells a variety of flavored macadamia nuts, will offer macadamia tastings, and sell steaming cups, and bags of coffee. They also will give away Hawaiian gift baskets to winners of Hawaiian artifacts-and-trivia contests.
“A lot of people don’t know about us since our coffee is not grown here,” says Edwards. “But plenty of people love to hang out in our tiki lounge to taste our products and share stories of their Hawaiian experiences or just listen to the Hawaiian music.”
Gil’s Gourmet: Nearby Gil’s Gourmet Gallery, founded in 1989 by Gil Tortolani and purchased in 2009 by Andy Banton, will be serving up all kinds of samples during the West End Celebration. It’s what they do, year round.
“In taking over the company, I’ve completely rebranded it,” Banton says. “I’ve implemented a ton of automation and best practices. We do a lot of private label products—you might have had our stuff and just never knew it was ours—so we’re kind of the guy behind the curtain.”
Gil’s Gourmet is best known for its pickled products—primarily hand-stuffed olives, pickled garlic, pickles, infused oils and vinegars—samples of which will be provided during the West End Celebration.
“Our storefront,” says Banton; “is a distributor show room, where we offer samplings of olives, oils and vinegars, and our own mustard – which won at the Napa Valley Mustard Festival. Out front, we’ll have booth during the festival, where we will sell cups of our soup and pulled-pork sandwiches made with our bbq sauce.” People tend to line up for that.
Carmel Honey: Folks also are hearing the buzz around new business Carmel Honey, whose owner and beekeeper is 12-year-old Jake Reisdorf. Don’t let his age fool you, for his youth belies his wisdom and experience. After encountering bees at the Monterey County Fair, Reisdorf dedicated himself to learning all he could about the life, the fragility and the essential contribution of honeybees to sustaining human food sources. Just in time for a fifth-grade school project in which students were to research and market a profession.
Reisdorf took his project seriously and developed Carmel Honey Company, a bona fide business, which has a large staff of bees making honey round the clock. Meanwhile, Jake has been keeping an amazing schedule for a seventh-grade scholar, with speaking engagements about bees and their honey, attending seminars and conventions, and selling honey through his website and during events all over town.
“At West End Celebration,” says mom Becky Reisdorf, “people can expect to learn all about honeybees from Jake while sampling small bites, such as crackers with cheese, drizzled with honey. Jake will tell you, anytime you buy a jar of honey or purchase a hive to place in your yard, you have contributed to public research and education on the importance of pollination and the benefits of the honeybee. Through ‘Jake Gives Back,’ he makes donations to organizations such as the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at UC Davis, to which he recently gave $500.”
Also look for the presence of Edible Monterey Bay magazine at the festival, with a booth filled with back issues and the current edition of the magazine, plus the chance to sign up to win special prizes courtesy of Edible Monterey Bay.
A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.